Lest We Forget


Compiled by Marilyn B

Tradition comes alive in Kg Ayer wedding

Mohammad Abdullah

AUGUST 7, 2010 – Brunei holds fast to tradition and culture and this is even more profound in the Bruneian Traditional wedding. Each family has their own traditions and each family is steadfast in upholding their particular customs and traditions.

While we attend weddings at the homes of the brides and grooms or at wedding halls in hotels and multi-purpose halls, a wedding held in Kampong Ayer is almost extinct. This is because of the changing of wedding standards and customs and the fact that most of the population of Brunei are now living on land.

In the old days, the whole village would be celebrating a wedding. Instead of tents, the nearby houses would be used to entertain guests. Guests would be seated in linear seating, and the feast would be spread out on lined carpets.

There were no tables or chairs as we would be sitting on the floor while mingling with the rest of the guests. We would sit in a cross-legged manner and the food is laid out in front of us covered with a decorated ‘tindulang’. We would share what was served on the tray and we simply enjoy the atmosphere as well as the closeness with the other guests. It felt like a lifetime ago, said a wedding guest.

In today’s standards, weddings are held at rented community halls or at banquet rooms in hotels. We are becoming more cosmopolitan. The days of holding wedding receptions at homes are slowly becoming extinct, while wedding receptions in hotels and community halls are becoming more and more popular, said another guest.

ABOVE & BELOW: The groom reciting the ‘takliq’ in the presence of guests; and the bride and groom seated at the beautifully decorated dais. PHOTOS: MOHAMMAD ABDULLAH

ABOVE & BELOW: Wedding guests arrive by boat; and family members ready to welcome guests arriving by speedboat

In the past, a wedding reception was something that the whole family rejoiced in, even the whole village. Relatives as well as neighbours would gather together to decorate the home of the wedding couple and even the village with flags and floral arrangements.

“I remember that prior to a wedding, there was excitement in the air. The village would get together and decorate the village and in particular their houses.

Since wedding camps were unheard of during those days, we would use the living rooms of the neighbours’ houses. The wooden walkways would be decorated with flags of all sorts. In some villages, coconut leaves were used along the perimeter of the wooden walkways to further enhance the festive atmosphere ha said.

The beating of the hadrah would be used to entertain the guests as well as to announce the arrival of the groom. The hadrah could be heard throughout the whole village.

The Kampong Ayer wedding customs of the old was not only festive byt it also promotes neighbourly love and strengthens the community ties of the village. A marriage between a bride and a groom also in part strengthens the bonds between two villages.

Today’s wedding customs and traditions are only glimmer of what weddings used to be in Brunei Darussalam, where the community spirit is revitalized and strengthened the already strong foundation of the Brunei Malay community.